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ID a skunk track from a possum or raccoon's

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by Watchful, Jan 27, 2010.

  1. Watchful


    Dec 8, 2004
    Uh oh. Strange tracks are on your property, and there's a hole dug under your house. Is it that danged hissy, ill-tempered possum again, or is it a skunk? Everyone knows the best way to deal with skunk smell is whiskey... you drink lots of it, because your house will smell like a corpse for a week, and it's better if you spend the time passed out. And why is the bottle only half-full?

    But hold on. It could be a fox or even a cat or whelping pooch. You take a look at the tracks, and right away spot five toes. That rules out fox, cat, or dog. Do you have a skunk, possum, or raccoon burrowing in?

    Note: these images make the tracks look a lot bigger than they are. You might be dealing with very small prints, so look carefully, and look at a lot of them!


    ^The skunk's rear foot is fairly close in size to the front foot; both prints are narrower than than a possum's. Don't stick your whole head into that hole just yet.


    ^The possum has wide, weird-shaped feet. The rear print is much wider than the front. Look at the ones at the top right of the picture. The front foot looks a bit like a hand, but the rear foot is a blotchy shape. Note, too, that possums are...um...well, they're not the most graceful of animals. The thing tries to walk straight, but you suspect you know what happened to your bottle of skunk whiskey.


    ^For contrast, look at these racoon tracks. The front track looks like a human hand. This guy was moving fast: check out the 1-2-3-4 gallop pattern. I wonder why he's running. Possibly because, in addition to the firewater, the possum also got hold of a firearm.
  2. Joezilla

    Joezilla Moderator Moderator

    Jul 22, 2005
    I can never find a tail drag with a possum but sometimes I see it with a skunk.
  3. chopchop


    Apr 17, 2009
    These tracking threads are great! Thanks for the info. The pic's of tracks & track patterns, along with the stuff that you point out, really helps me visualize what I should be looking for.

    good stuff :thumbup:
  4. C_Kyle


    Feb 7, 2005
  5. Watchful


    Dec 8, 2004
    Take a look at the middle picture, and you can see a bit of tail drag at the lower left. Their tails don't always touch the ground, but kind of whip around lazily behind them. Possums are among the least elegant walkers... oh, and *never* let them eat at your table.


    Skunks usually disrupt a lot of snow with their longer hair, especially at the sides of the tracks. The skunk tail usually stays up in a ?-mark shape when bounding or walking purposefully, so if you see a skunk tail mark, it often (but not always) suggests he stopped to look at something.
  6. tonym


    Mar 18, 2008
    Excellent post!!! I am loving these tracking threads.
  7. mistwalker

    mistwalker Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Thanks for the info, I have both coons and possums here on my own land so I often get to look at and study their tracks immediately after they were made. Pretty easy for me to tell the difference between those two now. I have never had that opportunity with a skunk, even though we do have a lot of them in this area. Not quite as many here as in the Smokies though.
  8. rocketbomb


    Apr 25, 2007
    Once you see the trail the drunken stagger of a possum makes, it's hard to forget it. Their footprints are some of the most distinctive I've ever seen also. It looks like it's all the possum can do to keep from falling off the ground.

    Have not had the chance to study skunk prints however.
  9. Watchful


    Dec 8, 2004
    I very definitely have one in the immediate area I can send you. With my compliments. He farts off something fierce around 5:00 every morning. Wakes the whole house up with the smell.

    Skunks spray only when startled. They also have incredibly eyesight. Why on earth God would mix bad eyesight with a noxious startle reflex is beyond me. Skunks get spooked by everything.

    My wife and I once witnessed a possum take a spectacular header down a flight of stairs. He paused at the top, studied the top stair for about three seconds, and put his right foot forward, and rolled and bounced down the stairs like a freaking bowling ball. He sprawled out at the bottom, rolled instantly to his feet, and continued on his drunken stagger without a pause. We realized his tumble was how he coped with stairs, the little idiot.

    However, a curious thing about skunks: when they really get running, their back hips sometimes turn out to the sides, and they wind up running a little sideways, like they're afraid you're going to grab their tail. As a result, you can sometimes see skunk tracks like ffrr (front-front-rear-rear) in a diagonal line.

    My family spotted a skunk running down our residential street around 4:30 in the afternoon. A juvenile. He would scamper, slightly sideways, and ran right past us. He headed for every sewer cover or dark bald patch in the lawn he could make out, and would execute this spectacular nose-dive into it. He would bounce off, look around, and sprint to the next one to repeat this nose-dive move. It occurred to me he couldn't remember where his hole was, the little idiot, and couldn't see anything. So he could make out a dark patch in the ground, and would try to dive into it.

    Poor guy was totally confused. He repeated this about seven or eight times as he worked his way along the sidewalk and across the street to old George's yard where I lost sight of him.

    Skunks are goofy.
  10. Watchful


    Dec 8, 2004
    Weird timing. As I wrote the above, I heard some rustling out front.

    It's raining pretty hard.

    I went out onto the porch and spotted blobs of wet footprints across the porch. They were too blurry to identify positively, but the size suggests that very same damn skunk had the temerity to walk across my front porch while I was making fun of him.

    Tomorrow, Little Watchful, Lesser Watchful and I are off to buy some industrial strength ammonia. I think I know where his hole is, and I'm going to stuff it with ammonia-soaked rags.
  11. Rick Marchand

    Rick Marchand Donkey on the Edge Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 6, 2005
    Good stuff, Watchful. Don't forget to use your nose, folks!
  12. Watchful


    Dec 8, 2004
    Thanks, Rick.

    Yep--my wife took the dog out this morning and found a clear set of skunk tracks across our driveway. One going out, one going in... right to a nearby hole. That's him, the little bastard.
  13. Watchful


    Dec 8, 2004
    Fujita Yuji sent me this photo of what he's got sneaking into HIS garden.


    It's a tanuki, or a racoon dog. If I had that living near the house, my wife would name it and both my mom and her mom would leave sausages out for it every night. :rolleyes:
  14. johnspark


    Dec 26, 2008
    I just had to post this since it is track related.

    I was walking in Paulding forest yesterday and noticed a bunch of deer tracks in the mud along the logging road. Amongst the tracks, there were several sets of super tiny deer tracks. One of the does must have just given birth cause this was the smallest set I've ever seen. I saw a lot of cool tracks on that walk. Looks like it's gonna be a good spring.
  15. fujita yuji

    fujita yuji

    Jul 12, 2008
    Happy to see you like my tanuki photo, Watchful.

    Tanuki's and oriental turtle dove's tracks.
    found within my guarden after a rainfall.
    Blade length 93mm(3.6 inches) for size comparison.
  16. s7brad


    Jan 3, 2008
    Cool.man. Thanks for posting.

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